From craft to science


From craft to science – the Epistemology of science



Epistemology or theory of knowledge is the branch of philosophy that studies the nature, methods, limitations, and validity of knowledge and belief. The term "epistemology" is based on the Greek words "επιστήμη or episteme" meaning knowledge or science and "λόγος or logos" meaning reason. It was introduced into English by the Scottish philosopher James Frederick Ferrier (1808-1864). This field has focused on analyzing the nature of knowledge and how it relates to similar notions such as truth, belief, and justification. It also deals with the means of production of knowledge, as well as skepticism about different knowledge claims. In other words, epistemology primarily addresses the following questions: "What is knowledge?", "How is knowledge acquired?", and "What do people know?".

In examining this topic, it should be understood that modern Empirical science relies heavily on induction in order to propose universal laws. One example in its most basic form is our expectation that the sun will rise every 24 hours, based on our observations of the past. This logic has been used since times in ancient Greece to justify our scientific conclusions, and has been discussed and challenged by scientists and philosophers through to the modern day. The problem of knowledge, learning and induction remains important, as if the assumption that expectations of events of which we have no experience cannot be taken as a proof, we cannot take many modern universal laws as proven. Moreover, a PhD student in management must be aware of definitions of knowledge, given that management is a discipline that creates and deals with knowledge, and that both industry and management science are contributing knowledge and theories of knowledge. The nature of these knowledge sources and theories on knowledge are very different, and hence the student must understand these differences. In the first of this course summary, perspectives on knowledge and learning will be considered chronologically, as if it were a developing craft or science such as shipbuilding. Part II will discuss the rhetoric, an important tool of persuasion for the student to challenge existing ideas or defend their own scientific proposals. Part III will look at knowledge and learning. This is distinct to proven concept of proven knowledge and rhetoric, and explores the methods and tools used to advance scientific knowledge and individual learning.

Part 1 – Proven Knowledge in science

As with all crafts, shipbuilding existed even before it became possible to codify knowledge through writing, and people crossed rivers and small seas with improvised or basic devices. At a certain point of time civilizations codified the shipbuilding craft, enabling larger vessels to be built on a repeatable basis and the craft developed into a science. Though is still a subject under continuous development, for many a pinnacle moment in shipbuilding was the Titanic, the ship that “could never sink” but was sunk by an iceberg. While ships are now advanced enough to fly through space, no claims are now made that ships can never sink.

Comparing shipbuilding to the codification of knowledge and learning in the western world, the establishment of the “Craft” was started by amongst others by Socrates and Plato, who developed and codified our basic knowledge and learning ability, based on the “knowledge of experience”. The theories of knowledge and learning where developed into an empirical science around 2000 years later, exemplified by the work of Galileo and Newton, based on the knowledge of “observation and experiments”. However, Hume was the iceberg that sank the Titanic, challenging our ability to make proofs through induction. Finally Popper must be considered, who in a similar way that insurance modern sea rescue and other forms of transport avoided the problem that ships will always sink, provided a solution to the problem of induction that allowed science to continue to work towards universal truths without solving the whole problem of induction.

Part II – Rhetorical reasoning

In part 2 we will deep-dive on rhetorical reasoning, which has also developed chronologically with thinking on knowledge and learning, but merits a separate section in order for to understand its importance to modern science and therefore the PhD student. Rhetoric rose as an important subject in the classical era, and it was Aristotle who first clearly defined rhetoric and initiated a debate on the theory of argumentation. Despite the declining use of rhetoric in the renaissance period, the rise of communication science in the modern era has reinvented rhetoric as very important subject.

Part III – Knowledge and learning

As with proven knowledge and rhetoric, it was the Greeks in the classical era who first started to examine the process of learning. In his dialogue with Meno, Plato proposed that we possess innate knowledge of pure ideas within ourselves, and that learning is to remember. The modern work of Dewey, though as a pragmatist opposes some idealist ideas of Plato, has very many similarities in that he believes in the experience of learning. The pragmatists strongly influenced ideas on learning in the American education system, however we need to look at Thomas Khun and his proposals around paradigms to explore how modern science tries to advance learning.

Knowledge as proven knowledge

Aristotle´s founding of logic and its application in geometry

Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. He wrote on diverse subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, logic, rhetoric, politics, government, ethics, biology and zoology. Along with Socrates and Plato, he was among the most influential of the ancient Greek philosophers, as they transformed Greek philosophy into the foundations of Western philosophy as it is known today.

Aristotle concepts of logic were built around geometrical problems, a reflection of the cultural background of Greek culture at that time. In keeping with Aristotle’s definition, we assume logic is a proposition in a sentence, and logic is characterized with the property that can be true or false. Above this Aristotle introduced three key concepts in logic; syllogism, stoic logic and valid reasoning (Bonet , 2007-2008). The Greeks also considered that logic and induction involved making propositions and categorized them in two types. The Universal Proposition, which is true in all cases and is very important when proposed as universal theories and universal propositions. An example of a universal proposition is that “All men are mortal”. The second is a Particular Proposition that refers to a more specific case, such as “All Athenians are mortal”, and is true when at least one case is true. Empirical science also introduced the concept of an Individual Proposition, which is based on experiment or measurements and refers to a unique case. For example, Socrates is mortal. Aristotle worked in universal and particular propositions with the syntax A (Universal Affirmative), I (Particular Affirmative), E (Universal Negative) and O (Particular Negative).

Syllogism is equivalent to deduction and can be illustrated by a simple example: All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; Therefore Socrates is mortal. In this case we are going from a more general case to a specific case. Stoic logic was structured differently and can also be demonstrated by a simple example: Socrates is in Athens or Macedonia; Socrates is not in Athens; Therefore Socrates is in Macedonia. The syllogism of Aristotle is a scheme that keeps all possible examples. The syllogism is a form of deduction, and for him the object of logic is to discover the forms of deduction or logical reasoning.

As in the following example, conclusions of syllogism can be used as premises for new syllogisms, and separates the premises from the conclusion.

P: All B are C

P: All A are B

C: Therefore, All A are C

Valid reasoning or logical deduction was defined as that in all situations, in all circumstances, if all the premises are true the conclusion is true. Aristotle also considered induction, and though this does not strictly belong to the field of logic, it is an important component of proven knowledge. Aristotle addressed it in his work on rhetoric. His considerations of rhetorical arguments were they are statements of a particular situation, which are proved or supported by another situation that is introduced as an example. In what Aristotle calls rhetorical induction, the general law is not explicitly formulated.

Axioms and theories for proven knowledge

According to the Oxford dictionary an axiom is a proposition regarded as self-evidently true. It is important to understand axioms as there are used heavily in proven knowledge. In geometry, if we say that Pythagoras’ theorem is true, are we relying on axioms at the beginning to prove this theory? In other words, as we develop theories on top of pervious theories, in order to prove that a specific theory is true we need to justify each previous theory used. At a certain point of time we will arrive at axioms, the principles used to develop the first or initial theories. An example of this in Geometry is the principle of a straight line as an axiom of geometry. The axioms of geometry are based on Euclid, who stated the axioms are proven the theorems defined them in the book Elements. He stated that the 1st axiom was a straight line, determined by 2 points. Empirical observation led to the universal propositions because we can observe the totality that a couple of points determine a straight line. It is evident, which means that our mind capture that directly without intermediation of other proofs. The Greeks considered these as innate principles or evident within ourselves, and hence was termed evident deductive epistemology or Axiomatic deductive system. These evident principles are equivalent to the axioms on which we build modern theories today in much more complex situations such as Newton’s laws.

Epistemology of Aristotle´s Physics

Many Greeks based their physics on the essence of things, such as Thales who said that all things were based on the essence of water. After him other Greeks claimed that everything is also based on earth, fire, and air. Aristotle introduced a fifth element describing the heavens, and asserted that all elements have a natural place in the earth in specific layers. The stars and planets are heavenly bodies made by the fifth essence that is always spherical, so they cannot be corrupted, that he called Aether. Each element will move to its natural layer described by two Phenomenon, Gravitation where the element will go down to its natural place, and levitation where it will go up. When a body is falling it accelerates, as the closer a body is to its natural layer the higher the velocity. Although this is not an acceptable explanation for modern science, Aristotle’s Ontology or the study of the nature of things was accepted for a long time as all of his ideas were considered a “package” mixing the good with the bad.

It is important to understand that at this time other Greek philosophers were not in agreement with Aristotle’s results, for instance Archimedes (287 BC – c. 212 BC) discovered two laws that were more compatible with modern Newtonian Physics. The most commonly recalled anecdote about Archimedes tells how he invented a method for accurately measuring the volume of an irregularly-shaped object. According to Vitruvius, a new crown in the shape of a laurel wreath had been made for King Hiero, and Archimedes was asked to determine whether it was of solid gold, or whether silver had been added by a dishonest goldsmith. Archimedes had to solve the problem without damaging the crown, so he could not melt it down in order to measure its density as a cube, which would have been the simplest solution. While taking a bath, he noticed that the level of the water rose as he got in. He realized that this effect could be used to determine the volume of the crown, and therefore its density after weighing it. The density of the crown would be lower if cheaper and less dense metals had been added. He then took to the streets naked, so excited by his discovery that he had forgotten to dress, crying "Eureka!" "I have found it!" (Greek: "εύρηκα!"). Despite this and many other significant discoveries such as Archimedes´ scales, it was Aristotle’s philosophy that was taken forward.

Greek ideas in the renaissance period and the rise of modern physics

After the Roman period, Aristotle's works were by and large lost to the West for a second time. They were, however, preserved in the East by various Muslim scholars and philosophers, many of whom wrote extensive commentaries on his works. Aristotle lay at the foundation of the falsafa movement in Islamic philosophy, stimulating the thought of Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd and others. As the influence of the falsafa grew in the West, in part due to Gerard of Cremona's translations and the spread of Averroism, the demand for Aristotle's works grew. William of Moerbeke translated a number of them into Latin. When Thomas Aquinas wrote his theology, working from Moerbeke's translations, the demand for Aristotle's writings grew and the Greek manuscripts returned to the West, stimulating a revival of Aristotelianism in Europe, and the church took this as the foundations of Christina philosophy, including the elements covering physics. This became part of the Christian dogma and therefore the western dogma. However the dogma was completely disconnected with observations posing a real issue to early empirical scientist who could not easily challenge the churches overarching theology.

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 –1543), was the first European astronomer to formulate a scientifically based heliocentric cosmology, and displaced the Earth from its center. His epochal book, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium or On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, is often regarded as the starting point of modern astronomy, as well as a defining epiphany in the history of science. Copernicus tried to predict the first Thursday in spring in which we have a full moon, to predict the holy week of Easter. Ancient astronomy was not giving the correct predictions, and Copernicus’ observations proposed that a model where the Earth revolves around the sun would be more accurate, without actually claiming that this is the reality to avoid being called a heretic. Keppler later proposed that these orbits where elliptical, also refuting Aristotle’s theories. He also proposed that the Sun was the visible representation of God, proposing that the planets and earth revolving around the sun because the sun produces heat, light and power and, if the sun is the symbol of God in the Universe everything has to revolve around it. These conclusions are indicative of the prevailing religious consensus at that time and the fact that empiricists were starting to challenge Christina dogma, which could be a very dangerous for the individual.

However it was Galileo who most challenged Aristotle’s ideas. Galileo Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the scientific revolution. His achievements include the first systematic studies of uniformly accelerated motion, improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations, and support for Copernicanism. Galileo's empirical work was a significant break from the abstract Aristotelian approach of his time. By building a telescope able to examine the planets, he asserted that celestial bodies were not perfect, having found craters on the moon and satellites that were orbiting Jupiter. This directly challenged Aristotle´s concept that fifth element was perfect in nature. He also challenged Aristotle’s assertions on gravity, showing that bodies increase their velocity at the same rate during its fall. Finally he indicated that the sun revolves on its axis every 24 hours.

Galileo's championing of Copernicanism was controversial within his lifetime. The geocentric view had been dominant since the time of Aristotle, and the controversy engendered by Galileo's opposition to this view resulted in the Catholic Church's prohibiting the advocacy of heliocentrism or the idea that the Sun was at the center of the universe as potentially factual, because that theory had no decisive proof and was contrary to the literal meaning of Scripture. Galileo was eventually forced to recant his heliocentrism and spent the last years of his life under house arrest on orders of the Inquisition.

As well as changing our understanding of Physics, scientists such as Galileo and Newton were challenging current beliefs and developing universal propositions by starting with observations. This use of individual or observational propositions to derive universals laws can be considered the Inductive deductive epistemology. Relying heavily on the process of induction, large numbers of observations in all relevant circumstances are used to justify a universal law. For example, if a large number of metals are observed to expand on heating, by the principle of induction we can justify the universal law that all metals expand on heating. Empirical science strongly believed that a large number of observations had to be made in different circumstances, and if these supported the universal law this could be used as justification. Induction became very important in modern science, most of the scientists of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries were using observations, experiments and inductions to propose universal laws.

Destruction of empiricism by Hume

David Hume (April 26, 1711 – August 25, 1776) was a Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian. He is considered one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment. Although in recent years interest in Hume's work centered on his philosophical writing, it was as an historian that he first gained recognition and respect. In 1739, Hume destroyed the principle of induction, i.e., asserting that we can discover new laws by induction but we cannot prove that a universal law is true (Bonet). Before going into his arguments, we must understand how important this was. Physics may have continued with its traditional research methods during and after Hume’s time, but this represents the iceberg that sunk the Titanic. Empirical methods such as those used physics were considered to be unsinkable, just like the Titanic in 1912.

Hume criticized Induction in two ways. It opened a deep problem in epistemology and in the foundation of empirical science, called the problem of induction. Here we summarize the firm conclusions on case study based research following on Hume’s tradition.

  1. In a case study, as in all empirical research, the results of one or a thousand observations do not justify the truth of the implicit or explicit universal laws involved in it.
  2. In case studies, as in all empirical research, there is a process of abstraction and conceptualization that is essential for the determination of the similarity among cases and observations, and for the establishment of general law and their scope- In many case studies the criteria of similarity are not explicit. Moreover many researches are not aware of them
  3. In many case studies, the analysis focuses on the analogy of two specific situations, but also involves general concepts and laws

Despite Hume´s work, most empirical scientists continued empirical research with paying attention or being aware of the result. However the impact of this work is well summarized by Bertrand Russell, “The growth of unreason throughout the nineteenth century and what has passed of the twentieth is a natural sequel to Hume’s destruction of empiricism”.

Conjectural Knowledge (Popper)

Sir Karl Raimund Popper (July 28, 1902 – September 17, 1994) was an Austrian and British philosopher, and a professor at the London School of Economics. He is counted among the most influential philosophers of science of the 20th century, and also wrote extensively on social and political philosophy. Popper is best known for repudiating the classical observationalist and inductivist account of scientific method by advancing empirical falsification instead. He is also known for his opposition to the classical justificationist account of knowledge which he replaced by critical rationalism and for his vigorous defense of liberal democracy and the principles of social criticism which he took to make the flourishing of the "open society" possible.

Popper background made him very interested in what was and wasn’t science. In the rise of Marxism, he was exposed to a time where any event would be used to justify a theory such as Marxism was true. Popper was also inspired by Einstein, who not only challenged many existing assumptions in physics, but also asked scientists to disprove his theory by giving them the circumstances in which his theory would be false. He did this as the technical equipment available in that day was not advanced enough to support of disapprove his theory.

Popper poses two questions that address the justification for the belief that the future will be like the past and the justification for inductive inferences. He states that there is no proof for our assumption that the future will be like the past or our assumption to make inductive inferences and the fact that there are rules for drawing these inferences. In addressing the problem he criticizes the traditional formulation of the problem. He proposes by reformulation of the problem that a solution can be found. He presents first the common sense view, Hume’s view, and reformulates the questions to propose his own solution.

In the commonsense problem of induction, Popper asserts that the belief “there is nothing in our intellect which has not entered it through the senses” does not explain why we have expectations of the future. Through repeated observations the common sense view takes for granted that we can justify our belief in regularities.

In addressing Hume’s Two Problems of Induction, Popper states Hume raised two kinds of problems, logical and psychological, the answers for which clash with each other. The logical problem asks if we are justifies in reasoning from instances for which we have experiences to those where we have no experience. Hume’s answer is no, however great the number of repetitions, and even if the word “probable” is included. His psychological problem is that despite the logical problem, all reasonable people expect that instances of which they have no experience will conform to those of which they have experience. He explains that this is due to “custom or habit”, and that we are conditioned through repetition without which we could hardly live.

In Popper’s restatement and solution for the logical problem of induction, Popper transposes Hume’s formulation from subjective language into objective terms, e.g., Hume’s “Beliefs” becomes a “statements” in Popper’s formulation. Despite the reformulation, Hopper agrees that the claim that universal theory is true based on empirical reasons is false, or in Hume´s language “based on experience”. No number of true test statements would justify that an explanatory universal theory is true.

However Popper claims that a test statement or observational proposition can prove that a universal law is false. This allows a preference with respect to truth or falsity for some universal theories over others to be justified via “empirical reasons”, assuming that test statements will refute some but not all of the competing theories. Since we are searching for a true theory, we shall prefer those whose falsity has not been established. The consequences of this assertion is that though we solve the problem of induction, universals laws cannot be proved and should always be considered the best hypothesis or conjecture. This theory of conjuncture is supported by the process of “Trial and error” and is also named “falsificationism” or hypothetical deductive epistemology.

The main criticism raised against Popper’s assertion is that observations that do not support universal laws may not be considered, we will have a tendency to challenge the observation rather than the law.

Lakatos’ developments on Popper´s work

Imre Lakatos (November 9, 1922 – February 2, 1974) was a philosopher of mathematics and science. Lakatos' philosophy of mathematics was inspired by both Hegel's and Marx' dialectic, Karl Popper's theory of knowledge, and the work of mathematician George Polya. The book Proofs and Refutations is based on his doctoral thesis (Lakatos). It is largely taken up by a fictional dialogue set in a mathematics class. The students are attempting to prove the formula for the Euler characteristic in algebraic topology, which is a theorem about the properties of polyhedra. The dialogue is meant to represent the actual series of attempted proofs which mathematicians historically offered for the conjecture, only to be repeatedly refuted by counterexamples.

Lakatos starts with a principle question, is science reason or religion? He explores the differences between Kuhn and Popper’s assertions on proven knowledge. He asserts that one cannot simply water down the idea of proven truth, as some logical empiricists do, to the “probable truth” or a “truth by changing consensus”. While according to Popper science is “revolution in permanence”, Kuhn ideas which will be explored further in part III, are that scientific revolution is the exception. Lakatos claims that the clash of these two ideas is not about a mere point in epistemology. It concerns our central intellectual values, and has implications not only for theoretical physics but also for the underdeveloped social sciences and even more for moral and political philosophy. If even in science there is no other way of judging a theory other than assessing the number, faith and vocal energy of its supporters, then this must be even more so in the social sciences: truth lies in power.

What Lakatos tried to establish was that no theorem of informal mathematics is final or perfect. This means that we should not think that a theorem is ultimately true, only that no counterexample has yet been found. Once a counterexample, i.e., an entity contradicting or not explained by the theorem is found, we adjust the theorem, possibly extending the domain of its validity. This is a continuous way our knowledge accumulates, through the logic and process of proofs and refutations. Lakatos proposed an account of mathematical knowledge based on the idea of heuristics. In Proofs and Refutations the concept of 'heuristic' was not well developed, although Lakatos gave several basic rules for finding proofs and counterexamples to conjectures. He thought that mathematical 'thought experiments' are a valid way to discover mathematical conjectures and proofs, and sometimes called his philosophy 'quasi-empiricism'.

However, he also conceived of the mathematical community as carrying on a kind of dialectic to decide which mathematical proofs are valid and which are not. Therefore he fundamentally disagreed with the 'formalist' conception of proof which prevailed in Frege's and Russell's logicism, which defines proof simply in terms of formal validity. On its publication in 1976, Proofs and Refutations became highly influential on new work in the philosophy of mathematics, although few agreed with Lakatos' strong disapproval of formal proof. Before his death he had been planning to return to the philosophy of mathematics and apply his theory of research programmes to it. One of the major problems perceived by critics is that the pattern of mathematical research depicted in Proofs and Refutations does not faithfully represent most of the actual activity of contemporary mathematicians.  

Rhetoric in science

There are opposing ideas on whether rhetoric is an essential instrument in science, partially driven by conflicting ideas on what rhetoric is (Bonet ). Without the use of rhetoric it would in fact be very difficult to develop new theorems and introduce these two a wider audience. Although rhetoric is popularly associated with negative persuasion, it can also be used in very positive ways to understand the importance of a topic, challenge or justify the logic proposed in a particular theory.

To quickly examine the concept of rhetoric, we will examine its origins as cultivated from classical Greek culture and defined by Aristotle, and then show its present use in scientific methods and papers. Doxa, the theory of reasonable arguments that cannot be proved will also be considered, as this is an important component of rhetoric.

Use of rhetoric and Doxa in the classical era

In the classical era, scientific research could be proposed via reasonable knowledge, and this was considered Doxa, the term that originated the words doctor and doctorate. This kind of argumentation could not be proved by logic, but was justified by reasonable arguments. In the classical era Doxa was considered 2nd class in relation to Epistemi or axioms that are evident. Nevertheless is formed an important component of rhetoric in order to persuade people.

Rhetoric was very important in classical society, as during a partially democratic society seen in Greek and Roman culture, citizens of higher standing in society were encouraged to participate in all aspects society. There was not a division of roles to the extent that is found in modern society, e.g., politics and law tended to be carried out by ordinary people in front of large public juries. In order to succeed in this, a number of schools were setup to train people to give speeches, and a theory of rhetoric and argumentation was developed. In Athens the democratic system could allow up to 3000-5000 people to propose and vote on specific laws, which means that ordinary citizens who wanted to push matters of politics or law needed help in order to speak well in the general assemblies.

Despite this importance, rhetoric was widely used to try and prove things that were of personal interest whether true or not, and this group was called the sophists. During the 5th century B.C. it is considered that there was a battle between the sophist and the philosophers and in particular Plato. As such Greek rhetoric can be considered to have passed through 3 stages: The 1st stage, using natural or born rhetoric as used by the Sophists; The 2nd stage, based on the criticism of rhetoric by Plato; The 3rd stage after Aristotle’s definition, considering rhetoric including a theory of argumentation.

Early Rhetoric, from the Greek ῥήτωρ or rhêtôr meaning orator or teacher is generally understood to be the art or technique of persuasion through the use of oral, visual, or written language. This definition of rhetoric has expanded greatly since rhetoric emerged as a field of study in universities. In this sense, there is a divide between classical rhetoric and contemporary practices of rhetoric which include the analysis of written and visual texts. Historically, classical rhetoric has its inception in school of Pre-Socratic philosophers known as Sophists. It is later taught as one of the three original liberal arts or trivium in western culture, of which the other members are dialectic and grammar. In ancient and medieval times, grammar concerned itself with correct, accurate, pleasing, and effective language use through the study and criticism of literary models, dialectic concerned itself with the testing and invention of new knowledge through a process of question and answer, and rhetoric concerned itself with persuasion in public and political settings such as assemblies and courts of law. Plato’s criticism was that the speaker needed to have a deep knowledge of the subject, rather than just developing their own opinions. However, Aristotle re-founded rhetoric in three books, as he considered that it is something completely innate to our everyday lives. He also considered that it was a parallel system to logic that was complementary to logical reasoning, but that none of the previous handbooks on rhetoric were dealing with arguments.

Aristotle’s definition of rhetoric

Aristotle’s definition of rhetoric is the “The art of finding in each situation the means of persuasion by words, especially in public address”. It is useful for finding and defending the truth. It is a counterpart of dialectics or parallel to logic. Aristotle defined three means of persuasion in rhetoric (Kennedy, 1991): Logos, the logical arguments on the subject of discussion; Ethos, the confidence, credibility and trustworthiness of the person delivering the argument; Pathos, the feeling produced in the audience by the argument. A great example of both Ethos and Pathos was Mark Anthony´s address to the Senate after the death of Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare’s play of the same name. Both Brutus and Mark Anthony have an established Ethos, it is the reason why the senate is listening to them after such an important event in Rome. Mark Anthony’s speech heavily relies on Pathos, invoking strong emotional feelings in the audience by personalizing their relationship with Caesar and citing that his will he left that all his personal possessions (Dorsch).

Within logos two type of argument could be proposed, rhetoric syllogism which was similar to logical deduction, and rhetorical induction via use of examples. This would involve an implicit induction and deduction, transferring the knowledge from one case to another directly. The scope of these rhetoric arguments included implicit premises or Enthymems, reasoning on plausible premises, and reasoning with inferences that are only plausible deductions. His criticism of the used of rhetorical induction was that the implicit elements could not be challenged and they were often based on only one case.

He also classified different types of rhetoric based on the situation in which it was being used. One was in a justice situation such as in front of a Jury where they need to decide on the right or wrong of past events. The second type was deliberative rhetoric, where an audience would need to decide on future events or course of action. The third type was celebratory rhetoric, no decision was required and people enjoyed the merits of the speech for itself. This was still important as it often expressed the values of a society or brought together the group involved. An example of this is the Gettysburg address by Benjamin Franklin, that “celebrated” the victory in battle, but more importantly defined the purpose of the civil war in terms of a fight for liberty.

Further to this, Aristotle defined the structure of learning rhetoric and public argumentation. This includes 5 parts: Invention as the discovery of arguments and included ethos, pathos and logos; Disposition as the arrangement and organization of the argument; Elocution or the style of delivery; Memorization in order to deliver the speeches; Delivery including the theatrical training in order to deliver the speech.

Theory of argumentation

The Greeks studied and codified the theory of argumentation, and as well as introducing Socrates’ concept of dialectics, also introduced the tools of metaphors and analogies that are still in use in modern science today. However we do not follow the Greeks Ontology on argumentation and the modern theory of argumentation is based on Toulmin who described the use of arguments and in the theory of Argumentation.

A Metaphor from the Greek metapherin, is language that directly compares seemingly unrelated subjects. In the simplest case, this takes the form: "The [first subject] is a [second subject]." More generally, a metaphor is a rhetorical phrase that describes a first subject as being or equal to a second subject in some way. Thus, the first subject can be economically described because implicit and explicit attributes from the second subject are used to enhance the description of the first. This device is known for usage in literature, especially in poetry, where with few words, emotions and associations from one context are associated with objects and entities in a different context.

Within rhetorical theory metaphor is generally considered to be a direct equation of terms that is more forceful and assertive than an analogy, although the two types of tropes are highly similar and often confused. One distinguishing characteristic is that the assertiveness of a metaphor calls into question the underlying category structure, whereas in a rhetorical analogy the comparative differences between the categories remain salient and acknowledged. Similarly, metaphors can be distinguished from other closely related rhetorical concepts such as metonymy, synecdoche, simile, allegory and parable.

Analogies are valid arguments on modern science and are a key component of metaphors. In Greek culture an analogy was a geometrical similarity, e.g., they have the same form but possibly have a different size. In the modern world, the use of street maps is a very good example of an analogy. In wanting to navigate a city, you transfer the physical problem to the map, solve it there, and then execute the solution in the physical world. The meaning of analogy has since extended to any two domains with common properties, however this concept of analogy is very broad and not very well defined. Wittgenstein proposed that we can still work with this broad definition, however in comparing two domains we need ensure that we only work with properties in the two domains that are similar.

An example of a good analogy is Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan swift, a novel that proposed an analogy at two levels. At the simple level he made a comparison between Gulliver’s world and the new world he found with miniature people. This analogy was geometric, with similar properties between Gulliver’s giant world and that of the small people who had captured him. The second analogy was to the social and political situation in his native England at that time, in that the characters in the miniature world had similarities with the ruling class in England. The meaning of this second analogy was that many insignificant people involved in England’s ruling class were significantly numerous to hold back any individual big power within the society.

Modern theory of argumentation

The modern theory of argumentation is based on Toulmin’s works, The use of arguments and Theory of Argumentation. Stephen Edelston Toulmin born March 25 1922, is a British philosopher, author, and educator. Influenced by the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, Toulmin devoted his works to the analysis of moral reasoning. Throughout his writings, he seeks to develop practical arguments which can be used effectively in evaluating the ethics behind moral issues. His works were later found useful in the field of rhetoric for analyzing rhetorical arguments. The Toulmin Model of Argumentation, a diagram containing six interrelated components used for analyzing arguments, was considered his most influential work, particularly in the field of rhetoric and communication, and in computer science. For Toulmin the first thing that we have in mind is our claim, a proposition that we defend, we support. If people around us accept it this is fine. But usually claims need some support and we have to persuade people in relation to the claim. Toulmin proposed a layout containing six interrelated components for analyzing arguments in relation to this claim:

  1. Claim: conclusions whose merit must be established. For example, if a person tries to convince a listener that he is a British citizen, the claim would be “I am a British citizen.”
  2. Data: the facts we appeal to as a foundation for the claim. For example, the person introduced in 1 can support his claim with the supporting data “I was born in Bermuda.”
  3. Warrant: the statement authorizing our movement from the data to the claim. In order to move from the data established in 2, “I was born in Bermuda,” to the claim in 1, “I am a British citizen,” the person must supply a warrant to bridge the gap between 1 & 2 with the statement “A man born in Bermuda will legally be a British Citizen.”
  4. Backing: credentials designed to certify the statement expressed in the warrant; backing must be introduced when the warrant itself is not convincing enough to the readers or the listeners. For example, if the listener does not deem the warrant in 3 as credible, the speaker will supply the legal provisions as backing statement to show that it is true that “A man born in Bermuda will legally be a British Citizen.”
  5. Rebuttal: statements recognizing the restrictions to which the claim may legitimately be applied. The rebuttal is exemplified as follows, “A man born in Bermuda will legally be a British citizen, unless he has betrayed Britain and has become a spy of another country.”
  6. Qualifier: words or phrases expressing the speaker’s degree of force or certainty concerning the claim. Such words or phrases include “possible,” “probably,” “impossible,” “certainly,” “presumably,” “as far as the evidence goes,” or “necessarily.” The claim “I am definitely a British citizen” has a greater degree of force than the claim “I am a British citizen, presumably.”

Decline of rhetoric in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries

The definition of rhetoric changed in Roman times, were the Oratory component was considered the most important, but rhetoric was still considered essential. In the renaissance period poetry and literary aspects of rhetoric became very important. The most important decline was in the seventeenth century, where a new vision emerged from Galileo and Newton, who considered that observations and experiments that can be repeated and can be used inductively to discover and justify universal laws. Moreover, Descartes defends that scientific research is carried out following methodological rules, which exclude rhetoric. Sidelined to poetic and literary aspects, even romanticism rejected rhetoric in the 20th century.

Modern rhetorical instruments and its importance in modern science

At the turn of the twentieth century, there was a revival of rhetorical study manifested in the establishment of departments of rhetoric and speech at academic institutions, as well as the formation of national and international professional organizations. Theorists generally agree that a significant reason for the revival of the study of rhetoric was the renewed importance of language and persuasion in the increasingly mediated environment of the twentieth century. The rise of advertising and of mass media such as photography, telegraphy, radio, and film brought rhetoric more prominently into people's lives.

Modern economics though clearly an empirical science uses rhetoric in a significant amount. There are many competing theories in order to explain and predict economic events, and use rhetoric to animate the dialogue between groups of scientist who support different theories. The use of this rhetoric has two principle groups, the use of analogies and the use of narratives. Economics uses mathematical models that are analogies or metaphors of the real world. In order to construct and defend these models, economists rely heavily on history in economics to promote the importance and validity of their conclusions. This example of economics also applies to many other empirical sciences such as physics, biology or social sciences. Deirdre N. McCloskey, born as Donald N. McCloskey in 1942, is an American economist and professor who most recently has asserted the importance of rhetoric in research in economics.  

Processes of learning and scientific research

Socratic and Plato´s methods as instruments for learning

Modern science recognizes that the ways of search that Socrates (469-399 B.C.) introduced are still relevant in many modern contexts. Management studies refer to and use them, and even modern communication tools such as online chat develop in similar ways to Socratic dialogues (Bonet). As such, Socratic methods belong to the common intellectual background of the western culture. It was first described by Plato in the Socratic Dialogues, and Socrates methods are based on implicit and explicit rules and constitute a component of discussion and dialogues in modern research (Hamilton). His ideas included the definition of a concept, procedures of induction and analogy, and processes such as a principal interlocutor. To solve a problem, you would ask a question and when finding the answer, you would also have an answer to your problem. This led to the beginning of the Scientific Method, in which the first step says to name the problem in the form of a question. For this, Socrates is customarily regarded as the father of political philosophy and ethics or moral philosophy, and as a fountainhead of all the main themes in Western philosophy in general.

In his method, a series of questions are posed to help a person or group to determine their underlying beliefs and the extent of their knowledge. The Socratic method is a negative method of hypothesis elimination, in that better hypotheses are found by steadily identifying and eliminating those which lead to contradictions. It was designed to force one to examine one's own beliefs and the validity of such beliefs. Socrates dialogues are mainly based on the knowledge of experience due to the cultural background of his society, addressing concepts such as prudence, courage, virtue, knowledge, learning and rhetoric. Socrates claimed that through people were often wrong about their beliefs, he could help people get the truth out of themselves by becoming aware of their misconceptions. Criticism of Socrates methods include his almost obsessive interest in definition of a concept such as “Virtue”, and Wittgenstein pointed out the name “game” is applied to so many activities that do not share a common definition of a concept.

Though we update Socrates’ dialogical methods, we do not follow his ontology, and should examine it via Plato who developed it to a deeper philosophical level. Plato (428 – 348 BC), was an ancient Greek philosopher, the second of the great trio of ancient Greeks who between them laid the philosophical foundations of Western culture. Plato was also a mathematician, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the western world. Plato is widely believed to have been a student of Socrates, and to have been as much influenced by his thinking as by what he saw as his teacher's unjust death. Plato's brilliance as a writer and thinker can be witnessed by reading his Socratic dialogues. Interestingly, although there is little question that Plato lectured at the Academy that he founded, the pedagogical function of his dialogues, if any, is not known with certainty. The dialogues have since Plato's time been used to teach a range of subjects, mostly including philosophy, logic, rhetoric, mathematics, and other subjects about which he wrote.

Plato proposed a radical ontological and epistemological system. He proposed that we possess innate knowledge of pure ideas within ourselves, and that learning is to remember. He illustrates this with his learning experiment in the dialogue with “Meno” (Hamilton) that we will not explore fully here. Elements of Plato´s ideas were further developed by Descartes, claiming we posses some kind of innate knowledge in which we include logic. Moreover, Plato’s description of the process of learning is similar to many modern theories, such as G. Polya who introduced the art of solving problems which he named Heuristics (Polya).

Dewey’s pragmatic philosophy on learning and knowledge

John Dewey (1859-1952) is the most known philosopher of American pragmatism that started in the last decades on the nineteenth century and became the main reference in the early twentieth. His work built on that of Charles Peirce (1839-1914), who coined the word pragmatism and considered that knowledge is a never ending quest motivated by doubt, and Charles James (1842-1940). His important efforts to the subject of education included transforming the curricula of the American training schools (Bonet). Dewey analyzed the functions of though and reflection in knowledge creation and learning in his book How we think (Dewey), published for the first time in 1910. He asserted that in many cases we do not state the ground that support or belief, however in many cases we critically examine this basis in a process that we call reflexive thought.

For Dewey, it was vitally important that education should not be the teaching of mere dead fact, but that the skills and knowledge which students learned be integrated fully into their lives as persons, citizens and human beings. This practical element of learning by doing sprang from his subscription to the philosophical school of Pragmatism. He then created his famous Lincoln School in Manhattan that operated through the late 1930s. His ideas, while quite popular, were never broadly and deeply integrated into the practices of American public schools, though some of his values and terms were widespread. In the post-Cold War period, progressive education has reemerged in many school reform and education theory circles as a thriving field of inquiry learning and inquiry-based science. Dewey is often cited as creating the foundations for outcomes-based education and Standards-based education reform, and standards such as the NCTM mathematics standards, all of which emphasize critical thinking over memorization

Dewey is one of the three central figures in American pragmatism, along with Charles Sanders Peirce, who coined the term, and William James, who popularized it. Dewey did not identify himself as a pragmatist per se, and instead referred to his philosophy as "instrumentalism". Dewey worked from strongly Hegelian and Neo-Hegelian influences, unlike James, whose lineage was primarily British, drawing particularly on empiricist and utilitarian thought. Dewey was also not nearly so pluralist or relativist as James. He held that value was a function not of whim nor purely of social construction, but a quality situated in events "nature itself is wistful and pathetic, turbulent and passionate".

He also held, unlike James, that experimentation such as social, cultural, technological, philosophical thought could be used as a relatively hard-and-fast arbiter of truth. For example, James felt that for many people who lacked "over-belief" in religious concepts, human life was shallow and rather uninteresting, and that while no one religious belief could be demonstrated as the correct one, we are all responsible for taking the leap of faith and making a gamble on one or another. Dewey, in contrast, while honoring the important role that religious institutions and practices played in human life, rejected belief in any static ideal, such as a theistic God. Dewey felt that only science could reliably further human good, specifically denying that religion or metaphysics could form a valid foundation for morality and social values.

As with the reemergence of progressive philosophy of education, Dewey's contributions to philosophy as such have also reemerged with the reassessment of pragmatism, beginning in the late 1970s, by thinkers like Richard Rorty, Richard J. Bernstein and Hans Jonas. Because of his process-oriented and sociologically conscious view of the world and knowledge, he is sometimes seen as a useful alternative to both modern and postmodern ways of thinking. Dewey's non-foundational approach pre-dates postmodernism by more than half a century. Recent exponents have not always remained faithful to Dewey's original vision, though this itself is completely in keeping both with Dewey's own usage of other thinkers and with his own philosophy. For Dewey, past doctrines always require reconstruction in order to remain useful for the present time

Thomas Kuhn and the idea of paradigm

Thomas Khun (1962) tried to remake some cases in the field of physics, he was interceded in history and became historian of sciences, and hence his approach was an historical approach. Although related to Popper´s work on Induction we discuss Kuhn in the scientific research to his contribution in describing the research process in modern science. He built on the work by Koyre, which studied Galileo’s work which was based on observation and discovered that some Galileo’s experiments were not really performed. Instead they were mental and thought experiments and Koyre casted doubt on the some of the experiments that Galileo claimed had been performed. Koyre said that that was the official version as Galileo had to differentiate himself form Aristotle, and this was a major criticism of Galileo’s work. The big change between the old science of Aristotle and to the new science Galileo for Kuhn was the change of ideas and mentality. In his book the, Structure of the Scientific Revolution, this mental shift was later accompanied by a more rigorous process of observation and experimentation.

Kuhn made a distinction of 2 periods in science. First the period of normal science where the principles are stated and there is a complete acceptance of them. Researchers in physics take for granted that the basic principles of Newton are true and that we develop them further in a very productive period of research. This he called by the “development of a paradigm”, where the basic view of the world is not discussed and while a paradigm which is consolidated and there is a high productivity in further developments. In moving to the second period, discoveries are more difficult and doing science in the field in not as productive as before. Some problem is found, an observation or an experiment is seen that cannot be very well explained from the laws of the paradigm but is not addressed as the confidence on the paradigm is total. But a certain point you get on difficulties that cannot be avoided. In this second period of crises in the Paradigm, and in that moment a scientific revolution may be born. Examples in Physics include from Aristotle to Copernicus and from Newton to Einstein. These changes of ideas about the world and how people look at it produced a long period of crisis where people look for new ideas, sometimes divergent, and after time a set of new ideas is imposing and creating a new paradigm. When these ideas are settled the new paradigm is consolidated and scientific revolution is over.

The theory of Kuhn is an approach of epistemology from a historical and social view. He also introduced the concept of scientific community, people that accept the same paradigm, the share the lines of thought that are not discussed it. Social communities with different paradigms defend their own paradigm against other communities. The change from the 1st paradigm to the 2nd, through the scientific revolution usually sees the scientist supporting the first paradigm keeping their ideas till they die. Kuhn claimed that the old paradigm kept their ideas until the death of their all followers. Other scientists who are less deeply involved in a specific paradigm or those that are extremely flexible convert to the new paradigm. So for Kuhn, changing a paradigm is a matter of faith and conversing to a new set of ideas. Kuhn emphasized that this is not a rational process.

Paradigms usually involve universal laws, and when a universal law is false it is only rejected and changed into another one when you have a better one. That is the way in which scientific research works in the modern age and is not logic. In other words it is the way scientific works. Popper on the other hand was especially furious with the idea that rejecting a former paradigm and going to a new paradigm was a matter of faith. Popper who had critical ideas about science, believed you have to always keep a critical view of the theories and look for possible falsifications. Kuhn´s opinion is opposed asserting that the scientific community is not critical, they just develop with each paradigm. The other point debated by Popper is that people who change paradigm should do that as a result of having to study the objectives of the old paradigm and change to a new one in a rational process. Since Kuhn says that it was a kind of religious conversion, he is asserting that science involves some kind of irrational process.

The merit of Kuhn is emphasizing or taking into account the full mentality of a scientific community. For Kuhn books and textbooks are very important for establishing the paradigm, as the book is read for many generations. In a conference in London where Kuhn and Popper confronted their ideas, Margaret Masterman was able to distinguish 27 definitions of paradigm in Kuhn’s book. Kuhn´s answer was that she tried to understand Popper’s book, and at the end he recognize that he tried to use the concept of paradigm in 5 different places. Kuhn thought to develop a paradigm could take up to 300 hundred years, that in some communities the problem is not to find new paradigms but to develop them. Gareth Morgan tried to distinguish paradigms in management science in “Images of organizations”, trying to distinguish in different paradigms by applying the ideas of Kuhn. For Kuhn in a normal period of science there is just one paradigm and to develop a paradigm it may take 2 or 3 centuries, but Gareth Morgan showed that different paradigms coexist the development is much shorter.

Modern instruments in knowledge and learning

Kuhns work is not the end of the story on knowledge and learning, other concepts that are recognized included tacit knowledge. The concept of tacit knowing comes from scientist and philosopher Michael Polanyi, born Polányi Mihály in March 11, 1891. It is important to understand that he wrote about a process and not a form of knowledge. His distinctions between tacit, implicit and explicit forms of knowledge made it possible to build new theories and to improve our understanding of knowledge creation and diffusion (Bonet).

The tacit aspects of knowledge are those that cannot be codified, but can only be transmitted via training or gained through personal experience. Alternatively, tacit knowledge can be understood to be knowledge that is embedded in a culture. For instance a regional culture, organizational culture or social culture is difficult to share with people not embedded in that culture. Tacit knowledge has been described as "know-how" as opposed to "know-what" or facts, "know-why" or science and "know-who" or networks . It involves learning and skill but not in a way that can be written down. The knowledge of how to ride a bike is an example, one cannot learn to ride a bike by reading a textbook, and it takes personal experimentation and practice to gain the necessary skills.

Tacit knowledge has been found to be a crucial input to the innovation process. A society’s ability to innovate depends on its level of tacit knowledge of how to innovate. Polanyi suggested that scientific inquiry could not be reduced to facts, and that the search for new and novel research problems requires tacit knowledge about how to approach an unknown. Further writers have suggested that most laboratories practices vital to the successful reproduction of a scientific experiment, are tacit (Collins, 2001). Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi's book The Knowledge Creating Company (1995) brought the concept of tacit knowledge into the realm of corporate innovation. In it, they suggest that Japanese companies are more innovative because they are able to successfully collectivize individual tacit knowledge to the firm. The two researchers give the example of the first Japanese bread maker, whose development was impossible until the engineers interned themselves to one of Japan's leading bakers. During their internship, they were able to learn the tacit movements required to knead dough, and then transfer this knowledge back to the company.


The debate around the Epistemology , proven knowledge and rhetoric, and learning methods is not over. If we believe Popper and Lakatos’ ideas we should look forwards to the disproving of our currently held paradigms. Moreover, epistemology in the classroom has once again become a hot debate, with Christian fundamentalists hoping to remove the teaching of Darwinism in American classrooms. As recently as 2007 Andrew Coulson has made headlines in the economist and wall street journal for the defense of empiricism as taught in American schools based on a work in Market Education: The Unknown History (Coulson, 1999). It seems as though Epistemology will remain at the top of the educational policy agenda for the near term.

--Ben, December 2007 (UTC)


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